Dissecting an article
I am interrupting my story on Alex’s life here a bit, to again illustrate my point of reference on evaluating articles I read. I really do like articles a lot and they are a great source of information. However, I have a problem with how some parts of them are constructed. Especially where assumptions are made.
I want to start off by just reminding everyone of the fact that I am not saying that Alex does or doesn’t suffer from either ADD or OCD, or that he has never been diagnosed or treated for any one of the two. I just want to give you my perceptions of this specific interview regarding him and these conditions. Some questions were asked after things I said in Part 3, you can read it here.
The article I am looking at for this specific analysis is from GQ magazine – Published 30 Mar 2011, Words by Brendan Shanahan, Photographed by Robbie Fimmano. It is a long interview and I am not going to discuss it in full detail, but only focus on the section that deals with mental health issues.
This interview is for the most part questions from the interviewer and answers from Alex. But every once in a while the interviewer just makes a statement without us knowing what was really asked when Alex gave a specific answer. This first part of the article I quote, is just to set the mood for what follows.
O’Loughlin’s public image — the motorcycle-riding, whip-cracking, fire-fighting, former drain unblocker — is tempered by hints of a certain fragility. In past interviews he has spoken of dark times during the early days in LA — sleeping on a friend’s floor and feeling like it was all a waste of time. When I ask if he has ever had a problem with depression he laughs uproariously, finding the suggestion ridiculous.
“I think I’m quite sensitive. Maybe it’s what allows me to be an actor. I’m pretty resilient but then it gets to a point where, once I feel defeated, it’s like I hang my head. In the couple of times it’s happened, once I’ve hung my head it weighs a ton. It’s really difficult to raise it back up again and kick on. And there was a moment there — and I’m sure every artist goes through this — where I was like, ‘You’re a fucking loser. You’re not even very good at what you do. You’re a fool as well for chasing a dream that has no substance.’ It was more an existential crisis than a specific clinical condition.”
Clearly, the interviewer is a bit confused about clinical depression and somebody being depressed over bad situations. I think Alex gave him a brilliant answer in the end. Then the interviewer goes on with another statement:
He may not suffer depression, but O’Loughlin has struggled with other issues. As an adult he was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). But when I ask how these have affected his life, he grows cagey. Once again I am forced to reassure him, but he eventually answers the question with candour.
Please note that he stated that Alex was diagnosed as an adult. If I read what he wrote correctly, he did not ask him the question about the diagnosis himself at this time or received an answer from Alex about it. For me, it would have been much more satisfying if he did indeed asked Alex the question and not just make a statement. I have seen statements like these in other interviews that were simply not true and were something the interviewer got from assumptions others have made in the past.
My question here is – If Alex has been forthcoming about these facts in other interviews, why is he cagey now? Was it not just another “Oh Shit” moment of “Please not this again? Why do they keep hammering on this subject?” Did Alex really know he was answering a question about him being diagnosed with both these conditions in adulthood, or was he just answering what he thought was a question about his previous remarks of having symptoms of these conditions in early life?
“I still have ADD. It’s something I’ve learned to live with. It affects people in different ways. It affected my learning when I was younger and I was never medicated for it. It was something that did make me feel like I was different and apart from everyone, made me feel isolated. Every girlfriend I’ve ever had has had a moment when they’ve gone crazy at me because they’ll say something and, literally, two or three minutes later I’ll respond. People think I’m rude or ignoring them but I’m not at all, I retain everything. It’s just the way my brain chemistry works. I’m actually a really loving, attentive person.”
Anybody can see some of the symptoms of ADD in Alex when he is doing interviews. He fidgets a lot and shows a lot of nervous energy. He also looks around a lot when there are distractions and movements around him. He copes with it rather well by a technique he uses a lot during interviews. He repeats the question that has been asked. This method helps him to stay focused and also to think about the answer for a bit.
As I have mentioned in Part 3 as well, a career in acting would actually be a good choice for such a person. They can be creative, be intellectually stimulated, and be physically active, all in one. Being a banker might become very frustrating for them.
Alex says “I was never medicated for it” To me, that means he has never in his life been medicated for ADD up until this article in 2011 and not just in his childhood. My interpretation could be wrong, I know, but that’s how it sounds to me.
Another thing that made me laugh a bit here, is that half the men are described by his statement about him responding late to girlfriends. My own father is like that when he concentrates on something else. At first, you will not get an answer out of him and then suddenly he will realize he is being asked something and responds. My dad might also not indicate that he heard you at first but will just start thinking about an answer to reply with and suddenly give you his response. And I can promise Alex, that is not just a trait of ADD sufferers, that is a man thing in general. The subject of how men and women’s brain physically differ and how it affects differences in their behaviour, is a story on its own. 🙂
At this stage of the interview, things really start to get woolly for me.
The OCD, says O’Loughlin, is now mostly a thing of the past. In the calming atmosphere of Hawaii, his childhood days of taking hours to tie his shoes just right are a fading memory. However, he does admit to having occasional obsessive urges. “If I get OCD about something, I’m like, ‘Oh my God, I have to do it.’” He pauses, laughs and adds, “So you’ve just ascertained that I should be imprisoned and medicated.”
With OCD as with most mental conditions, when you are correctly diagnosed, it is something you carry for life. You either get medication or therapy or both. You learn to live with it and cope with it and there is hardly ever a cure for it – You do not get mostly over it! Again the interviewer makes a statement of how calming the atmosphere in Hawaii is and how this makes symptoms a fading memory of the past. If that was so, people with mental disorders would just have to move to more tranquil places and then they will be cured.
Something else the interviewer do touch on that I know was mentioned by Alex himself in other interviews. The fact that it took him a long time to do his shoelaces, hardly warrants a diagnosis of OCD. One symptom does not make a disease.
And then the interviewer talks about “occasional obsessive urges” which does not really describe a OCD sufferer to me: Alex says: “If I get OCD about something, I’m like, ‘Oh my God, I have to do it.’”. It sounds more like a statement about seeing something and going after it and pursuing it. Not a ritual of repeating something to calm an anxiety that can take hours from your day…….
Some other factors that has got nothing to do with this article, but make me query this OCD diagnosis of Alex, I want to list here:
• He travelled the world as a young adult and most probably lived in conditions far from 5 star accommodation quality, while doing it – Hardly something that someone with OCD would easily do.
• He attended NIDA fulltime and held a job at the same time. – Again something that would not be seem as easy for a OCD sufferer to accomplish.
• He lived a nomadic lifestyle, sleeping on friends floors and couches during his first year of trying his luck in Hollywood – Strange thing to be prepared to do by a OCD suffer
• During the months when Moonlight was filmed he worked 16-17 hours days on the set and hardly slept enough. – Very hard for me see that a person who are anxious and needs to live with rituals can cope with.
• And now also with the making of Hawaii Five-0, he is working at a fast pace and doing long hours, carrying the load of being called the number #1 on the call sheet – Very hard for me to comprehend that somebody suffering from OCD can actually cope with it.
Was he really diagnosed with OCD by a psychiatrist in his adult years? If so, that person has given him the best treatment he could find, because he is really coping rather well with it all. He also made some brave lifestyle and career choices of pursuing acting as his craft. Something that is very stressful and very much done in public …….AND on top of that Alex is one of the most touchy feely affectionate and hands-on celebrities I know. Forever hugging and kissing fans (strangers), co-workers, friends, girlfriends and even everybody’s dogs. (And not only since he moved to tranquil Hawaii) Always ready to shake hands, sign autographs and goof around in general! Maybe also the reason why we as fans adore him so…….but not really behaviour generally associated with OCD sufferers.
The divorce of O’Loughlin’s parents at a young age undoubtedly contributed to his difficult childhood. Born in Canberra, O’Loughlin spent his younger years shuttling between his mother’s home in the capital and his father’s in Sydney. During high school he admits he was a tearaway. I ask whether his undiagnosed ADD may have contributed to him playing truant, getting expelled and dropping out in his mid-teens.
Here again the interviewer is making a statement of things he has heard or read and do not ask the question. He did not ask Alex to confirm that he was indeed born in Canberra and at what age he started shuttling between his parents. Maybe he asked the questions about it in a previous interview; I don’t know, but I always wonder when just a statement is made, how much the interviewer really confirmed the facts with the person he interviewed or how much he is going on hearsay. If he said something like, “in a previous interview, Alex and I discussed where he was born…..etc”, it would be more believable to me.
Something from earlier in the interview made me realise once again how little control the person being interviewed, has over the final product of the article.
When I share some of my own fears with O’Loughlin, he recommends that I read Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet. For a time he extols the virtues of the classic text before coming to a sudden halt. “Can I ask you a question?” he says, not leaving any time to answer. “Am I going to sound like a cunt when this interview comes out?”
This frankly phrased query arrives seemingly from nowhere. It’s asked partly in jest — another of the actor’s self-deprecating asides that scatter our conversation — and partly in an attempt to defuse any accusation of pretentiousness. But there is a part of it that feels genuine, too. It’s difficult to know exactly how to respond. I do my best to reassure him (“Not unless you are a cunt,” I reply, which gets a laugh) and the interview continues. Nevertheless, I am left with a sense that Alex O’Loughlin is a bit of a livewire.
Another general observation about this article that I want to mention here, is that Alex “sounds” kind of pissed off and annoyed during the interview. I do not know if it was just a “bad” day for him or if he was just annoyed at the interviewer or maybe both. I guess the photoshoot also happened either on the same day or very close to it. He looked gorgeous as always, but just a bit pissed off on the photos to me. For me there is a “broody” look and then there is a general “you are irritating the shit out of me look” – well he looks irritated and annoyed to me.
Something else that occurred to me is the fact that although he might be very guarded on certain subjects in his life, at some stages he is actually naively forthcoming in sharing personal things like emotions and his general outlook in life.
I want to emphasize again that I am not making any conclusions about Alex’s mental conditions or saying that he has never said anything in regards to it in other interviews. If anybody can direct me to articles where he himself answered some of these questions, I would really appreciate it.
With all of the above, I am merely trying to explain further how I read articles to find information that is as close to the truth as possible. My aim is always to seek the truth and pass over things that leave any doubts, or are not clearly explained. (I always take them into account, but never see them as true facts until proven otherwise) For me, the things that I can see, also carries more weight than what is said by third parties and I always try to match the two.
I want to repeat my final words of Part 3 again – For me, it seems that there were a lot of issues for Alex to cope with in childhood and that he felt out-of-place at times. These facts make me respect and admire him even more. He had to work through his problems, find a place for himself in life, and carve out a road to success with hard work and a lot of dedication.
…………….to be continued